The Complete Essentials Guide For Hiking In Hawaii

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii: What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Going on a hiking trip is one thing, but going on a hiking trip in Hawaii is something else entirely. More often than not, the place that you choose to go hiking will have some influence over what you should wear for the duration of your trip. 

You will need to make lots of important decisions when it comes to planning for your hiking trip, and your outfit is one of the most important of them all. You will need to ensure that you are comfortable and appropriately dressed for the weather and environment. 

We are going to tell you everything that you need to know about what to wear when you are hiking in Hawaii in this article, including everything from choosing the right shoes, the best clothing, and what other essentials you should take with you.

What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Below, you will be able to find all of our tips and recommendations for what you should wear when you go hiking in Hawaii. It doesn’t matter if you are hiking in Maui, Oahu, or on the Big Island, there are lots of things that you will need to think about.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii


When it comes to choosing the right footwear for hiking in Hawaii, you should typically choose between hiking sandals or trail running shoes.

Hiking sandals are perfect for your Hawaii hiking trip because they are extremely versatile. Hiking sandals are much better than normal sandals as they will give you much more traction. 

Lots of hiking trails in Hawaii will have loose gravel or dried up dirt on them, and this can cause slips when you are hiking.

Of course, there are no types of shoes that will prevent this from happening entirely, but this extra traction will help with this. Also, due to the fact that Hawaii is hot, you might prefer to wear sandals instead of shoes.

With that being said, if you would prefer to wear shoes instead of sandals, then trail running shoes could be the perfect alternative for you.

They will also provide more traction and support than regular shoes. There might also be certain trails where closed shoes would be desirable, especially those that have small rocks or little bits of lava rock.

This is why if you are going to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, you will probably be better off wearing trail running shoes, especially if you want to walk across the lava fields. These shoes may also be preferable for places where you may end up waking over old lava.

If safety is ever a concern when it comes to your feet, then these shoes are your best bet. Areas like the Haleakala National Park on Maui are at a higher elevation with cooler temperatures, and trail running shoes would be really beneficial if you are hiking in these areas.

The same thing could apply if you are hiking in the Haleakala volcano crater hike or Sliding Sands Trail. Alternatively, if you are planning on doing the coastal side bamboo forest hike, the hiking sandals could work really well as there will be warmer temperatures and the trail is mostly made up of dirt.

Apart from these popular trails, some other popular options are the Hoapili Trail and the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail. Both of these trails will take you across old lava flows, so closed shoes are the better option here. You will need to consider the terrain that you will be hiking on if you want to choose the best footwear.

Can I Wear Normal Running Shoes?

If all you have available to you is regular running shoes, then these can work just fine. One of the main differences between normal running shoes and trail running shoes is that the latter are much more durable when it comes to rugged terrain.

You typically won’t find too much rugged terrain on the most popular hiking trails in Hawaii, so you can wear normal running shoes if that’s your only option.

You should also be aware of the fact that trail running shoes will usually have a stiffer sole to them, whereas normal running shoes will be much more flexible. Normal shoes will also be a little bit lighter than trail running shoes. It is up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide which option would be right for you.

Which Hiking Shoes Should I Wear In Hawaii?

If you are an avid hiker, then you may already have multiple types of hiking shoes to choose from. Otherwise, you may just want to be as prepared as possible by choosing the perfect pair of hiking shoes for your trip. You can choose hiking shoes or boots, depending on your preference.

Lots of people prefer to wear running shoes due to the fact that they are much more versatile, which means that they can be beneficial for various purposes, limiting the number of shoes that you have to take with you on your trip.

Shoes that are specifically designed for the purpose of hiking will generally be more heavy duty, and they can come in handy in various different situations. A great example of this is that hiking boots are generally more water resistant than normal shoes, and it is always great to have a pair of them on when there are water crossings.

This way, you won’t have to worry about getting your feet wet and having to deal with damp feet all day long. 

Hawaii is home to waterfall trails, and it is always a good idea to wear waterproof shoes on these trails. Lots of these trails are also muddy, and hiking boots will prevent your feet and socks from getting muddy.

As well as this, if it does start to rain, at least you won’t have to worry about walking around in wet shoes all day, and the blisters that will eventually appear on your heels.

If this is what you have in mind, then you should be sure to check the labels of the shoes to ensure that they are definitely waterproof. One material that is waterproof and is commonly used for hiking shoes is gore-tex. So, if you see this in the label, you are on the right track.

If you are planning on getting into hiking more after your trip, then this could be the perfect time to invest in a good pair of hiking shoes. If you already have some at home, then great, but otherwise, you might want to think about getting some if you don’t want to experience the uncomfort of walking around all day in wet shoes.

Overall, trail running shoes can be a great option for normal trails on a sunny day, but you never know when the weather may take a turn for the worse. Shoes that are designed for the purpose of hiking are usually the best option, especially if they are waterproof, but you can use alternative methods if you don’t want to go all out.

All of this will also depend on how much hiking you intend to do while you are in Hawaii, and whether you will get use out of these shoes again after your trip.

So, If You Are Going To Be Hiking Across Any Of The Following, You Will Need A Good Pair Of Hiking Shoes:

  • Lava rocks
  • Rocky terrain
  • Water
  • Bad weather

Alternatively, if the weather is nice and dry, and the terrain is flat and made of mostly dirt, then you will likely be able to get away with wearing either hiking sandals or hiking running shoes. There are lots of different options available on the market for you to choose from, depending on what you need.

No matter what type of shoes you do choose to wear, we do recommend that you break them in before the big day. Simply put them on and go for short walks or even wear them around the house or when you are running errands.

This will be a great test run to make sure that the shoes are a good fit for your feet and to ensure that they are going to be comfortable throughout the hike.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Quick Drying Shirts

Now that you know exactly what shoes to wear for the occasion, you will need to think about the right clothing to wear too.

When it comes to choosing the right shirt, usually, the best options are those that are quick drying. These shirts can work well for both men and women, especially when you are going to be working up a sweat by hiking around in Hawaii. 

Quick drying shirts will have moisture wicking properties, which means that they are able to wick away the moisture from your sweat. These are much better for you to wear for hiking than normal cotton shirts as these will only soak up your sweat and leave you feeling uncomfortable. 

They also make the perfect travel shirts due to the fact that they dry up quite quickly. This can make it both easier and quicker to wash your shirts while you are away, so you won’t have to pack as many t-shirts with you in your suitcase.

You will be able to find these types of shirts in almost any athletic clothes section of big stores like Wal-mart, Target, Kohl’s, and more. You can also go to sports shops for athletic wear or outdoors stores which will be more than likely to stock these types of clothes.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Outdoor Shorts Or Capris

You will also need to make sure that you are wearing comfortable shorts or capris when you are out hiking. You should consider the nature of the trail here, as longer pants can be beneficial if there are hazards that can get caught on your legs throughout the trail.

Although, if it is relatively clear, then shorts should work just fine to keep you cooler throughout your trip. A light material for either option is also a good idea, and there are pants that will have moisture wicking properties too.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Breathable Hat Or Visor

If you were to wear a breathable hat on your hiking trip, you would be able to keep the sun out of your face, but also avoid trapping too much heat around your head. Some great options for this purpose are running hats and running visors.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Socks And Underwear

When you are hiking, your feet are going to be sweating a lot more than usual, especially due to the hot weather in Hawaii.

This is why you should wear athletic socks, as they are much more breathable, and they can help to keep you more comfortable. Sometimes, these types of socks will be called performance socks, and they are suitable for both men and women.

You can also get moisture wicking underwear that is designed for hiking and other types of sports. They are more likely to dry quickly than normal underwear, which again, can keep you more comfortable.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii


Due to the warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine that are in Hawaii, it is always a good idea to wear sunscreen. You should also take some with you on your trip so you can reapply it when necessary.

Don’t forget to apply it to your face, and any parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. Reapply every few hours or so, as instructed on the packaging.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Hiking Backpack

You will also need to select a backpack that will be big enough to hold all of the things that you might need to take with you on your trip.

There are lots of hiking bags that are specifically designed for this purpose, and they will have lots of pockets to help store all of your things. You should always choose a bag that is going to be comfortable to carry around on your back all day, and make sure that you don’t overpack. 

Otherwise, it will be difficult to carry around all day, and will start to hurt your shoulders, neck, and back quite quickly. Some of these bags will even have clips on the front of them that you can use to hang things, which can be very convenient for items that you may need quick access to.

You will need to think about your plans for the day when it comes to packing your bag. One outdoor brand that is well known for producing great quality hiking backpacks is Osprey.

Something that you should keep in mind is that the size of these bags is measured in litres. You should try to keep the size to between 9 and 11 litres. However, if you do need to go bigger than this, try to avoid going higher than 22 litres.

Of course, having a big bag is great because you can take everything with you, but don’t forget that you will need to carry it around with you all day. 

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii

Now that you know exactly what items of clothing you should wear on a hiking trip in Hawaii, we are going to tell you about some of the other essentials that you might take with you on your hike.

It is always a good idea to be prepared for certain situations, and there are also some things that you should never set off on your journey without. You can find out what these things are below.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii


The first thing that you should never leave the house without if you are going hiking in Hawaii is water. This is an essential item that everyone should take with them. In the hot weather, you will be sweating a lot, and you will need to replenish all of the water that you are losing.

It is easy to become dehydrated when you are hiking, and you could end up in a dangerous situation if you don’t have plenty of water with you.

If you don’t want to carry too much water because of the weight, you should make sure that there are places where you can fill up your water bottle throughout the day. Otherwise, you will need to bite the bullet and take lots of water. At least your backpack will get progressively lighter throughout the day as you drink.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii


You might be surprised at how much energy you will lose when hiking, and by how much energy just a few hundred calories can actually provide you with. Snacks are important, especially if you are planning a long hike.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Cooling Towel

This item is not essential, but it can be a lifesaver when you are struggling in the heat. You might thank yourself for packing a cooling towel. Alternatively, you could take other cooling products with you like cooling mist, or even a portable mini fan.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Light Rain Jacket Or Poncho

If it does start raining out of nowhere on your hike, you are going to get soaking wet, unless you have thought ahead and brought a light rain jacket or poncho with you. You are even more likely to need this if you are hiking up in the mountains.

A lightweight rain jacket can be a real lifesaver, but if you are struggling for room, you can take a poncho as these are often no bigger than your hand when they are in their packaging.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Phone Charger

You might not need this if you are only going out for a few hours, but if you are planning on hiking all day, then taking a portable phone charger with you is always a good idea.

Having a phone with you is always good in case of an emergency, and you may even need to use Google Maps if you get lost. Using different apps or taking lots of pictures can cause your battery to drain really quickly.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

First Aid Kit

You never know what might happen out on a hike, and this is why a small first aid kit is an essential item for any hiker. You can get one that is pre packed, or you can choose to make your own, so you can decide what goes into it.

Either way, you should familiarise yourself with the contents of this first aid kit, so you know exactly what you have access to in an emergency.

Some great essentials to take include ointment, antiseptic wipes, and bandages.If a few of you are going, you could coordinate what medical essentials you are taking, to spread the weight.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Bug Spray

If you are planning on hiking on a trail that goes through a forest or other unfamiliar territory, then you might want to take some bug spray with you to avoid getting bitten. To save on weight, you could take insect repellent wipes instead, which are a great alternative.

There are also bracelets that you can wear around your wrists or ankles that are designed to repel insects, which can save you packing anything at all. Although, you should make sure that you choose a reputable brand if you are going for this option, as many of them don’t really work.

Hiking Essentials For Hawaii. What To Wear Hiking In Hawaii

Extra Socks

As we have already mentioned, there are lots of waterfall hikes in Hawaii, or trails that will go across water. Among these areas are also lots of areas that are going to be very muddy on some trails, and it is important to be prepared for this.

Although, even with the best level of planning, you still might end up accidentally sticking your foot in a muddy puddle.

This is why we recommend taking an extra pair of socks with you, just in case this happens. You might be able to clean up your shoes with some water, or some wipes, but you probably aren’t going to be able to rid the mud from your socks.

The last thing you want to do is walk around with mud squelching in between your toes all day, so you might want to take an extra pair, just in case.

How Do I Decide What To Take Hiking In Hawaii?

You might be wondering to yourself ‘Do I really need to take all of this with me?’, and the answer is no, you don’t always need to. Of course, it is essential to take water with you at all times, but the amount of stuff that you should take with you will depend on how long you are hiking for.

If you are only hiking for a couple of hours, then you might not need to take lunch if you had a big breakfast, a few simple snacks will do. You also might not need to reapply your sunscreen or take a phone charger.

On the other hand, if you are planning to be hiking for an entire day, then your packing list is going to be more extensive. You’re going to need food, water, sunscreen, and many of the other things that we have mentioned.

Snacks are always an essential item to keep you feeling energised throughout the day, and water will prevent you from becoming dehydrated. 

Aside from this, if you feel like you don’t need to take the luxury items, like a portable phone charger, especially if you are wandering into the land of no phone signal, then you don’t have to. Try to coordinate with the other people that are coming on your trip.

For example, all 6 of you do not need to take a full bottle of sunscreen. Instead, you can share it out and share the packing load between you. The same can be said about bug spray or medical supplies. 

Whatever you do, do not wait until 10 minutes before you leave to pack your bag ready for your hike. This is a recipe for disaster, and you are much more likely to forget something important, like your only source of water for the day, as you are in a rush. The key to any successful hiking trip is planning and preparation.

It can also be really helpful to create a checklist of all the things you want to take with you, and run through your checklist before you leave, ticking off everything that you have. This way, if you forget something, you will still have some time to do something about it before you leave for your trip.

Emily Winters